Japan needs to keep looking outward
and realize proactive pacifism

February 10, 2016

Yasushi Akashi
Chairman, International House of Japan, former United Nations Undersecretary-General

2016 marks the 60th year since Japan joined the United Nations. Of importance is Japan's attitude toward bilateral diplomacy, including relations with China, South Korea, the United States and other countries, as well as toward global affairs. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks about "proactive pacifism" and the security bills passed last year will come into effect this year. But with the Upper House election approaching, I worry that the administration may discard the proactive approach it took to pass the security bills and revert back to a domestic-oriented approach to matters.

For example, with regard to the issue of dispatching the Self-Defense Forces on rescue missions during peacekeeping operations, there is growing concern that the SDF will be at risk. But if Japan cannot maintain a proactive global attitude, it is unlikely that it will achieve the U.N. Security Council reform that it has long sought. Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that his country is willing to dispatch 3,000 Chinese soldiers constantly for U.N. peacekeeping operations. Japan has barely managed to send 300 SDF personnel to Southern Sudan and may even be forced to cut back or completely withdraw its forces if the situation there worsens. Such being the case, 2016 may turn into a year when Japan's commitment to implementing proactive pacifism will be scrutinized.

Ideological conflict between left-wingers and right-wingers will likely intensify in Japan. Meanwhile, European solidarity against the Islamic State militants and terrorism appears to be waning, and in the United States, the administration of President Barack Obama, while touting the success of airstrikes, remains reluctant to put American boots on the ground to fight the militants. The world is embroiled in chaos, domestically and internationally.

What Japan needs most now is to take the middle road, neither leaning to the left nor to the right. What is missing in this age of over-information is proper analysis. It will become increasingly important for Japan to see its middle class and prudent people in general speak out, and make that the foundation of the country's democracy.

⇒ Yasushi Akashi
Chairman, International House of Japan, former United Nations Undersecretary-General

⇒ Yasuchika Hasegawa
Chairman of the Board, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd.

⇒ Hiroya Masuda
Advisor, Nomura Research Institute, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications

⇒ Yuji Miyamoto
Chairman, Miyamoto Institute of Asian Research, former Ambassador to the People's Republic of China

⇒ Akihiko Tanaka
Professor of International Politics at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, University of Tokyo

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